The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre

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Bread Porosity

Researchers at the CSIRO’s Food Futures National Research Flagship are using a novel approach to study the previously unknown relationship between the mechanical properties of bread and its porous structure.

The international perception of Australia’s wheat is that it is not ideal for bread making. Wheat flours that are considered superior for making bread are highly sought after by bread makers worldwide, and an improved quality wheat export could be a lucrative product for Australian growers.

Utilising microCT imaging and computational modelling techniques commonly used in analysing minerals, the researchers hope to characterise the foam structure to help create better quality bread.

The Challenge

Most bakery products are porous, foam-like materials, and porosity contributes to the texture and the perceived quality of food products. The ability to accurately characterise the foam structure in breads has been a long-standing goal in cereal science, and while it is known that foam contains both open and closed pores, the nature of the pores in breads has remained relatively unknown.

One of the challenges of this unusual approach is that bread and minerals, though both porous, have many structural and behavioural differences. While a mineral with 20% porosity can be considered very porous, bread can be 80-90% porous.

3D reconstruction of bread structure from microCT data. Image courtesy Sumana Bell

3D reconstruction of bread structure from microCT data. Image courtesy Sumana Bell

The Solution

Using MicroCT imaging and Avizo Fire, a 3D visualisation application framework designed for interactive exploration, visualisation, analysis, comparison,

and presentation of geosciences data, The University of Western Australia PhD student Shuo Wang, under the supervision of CSIRO’s Dr Sumana Bell and Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb, has created 3D models of various types of bread.

Wang used x-ray micro tomography to examine 1cm cubes of bread. 500-1000 images of cross section x-ray absorptions were taken of each sample, before being assembled into 3D models that can then be examined interactively. These models are so detailed that Wang can look at each bubble within the foam structure. Avizo allows Wang to quantify the porosity of the structure, providing quantitative information on each tiny bubble.

As this kind of modelling is highly computationally intensive, the resources at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre allow Wang to undertake the various stages of the visualisation smoothly within one program.

The Outcome

This is the first time the foam structure of bread has been accurately characterised – a significant step in cereal science. The grain market is driven by perception – to introduce scientific data to try and shift perceptions in the market is difficult. However, this research is fundamental in understanding the factors behind perceptions of wheat quality, opening the door for researchers to attempt to address these perceptions in the future.

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